CHICAGO — A non-profit is working to provide jobs to teenagers who have previously been arrested for participating in the so-called teen takeovers, as well as other crimes such as carjackings.

Monday, an event organized by Early Walker, CEO of I’m Telling, Don’t Shoot, highlighted a community effort to employ teenagers in the restaurant industry. Multiple teens and parents spoke about the need for employment for young people.

“Being able to understand these kids are way more advanced, way more creative, (have) way more temptations to deal with now and I think that’s the real of this, right? Is that at the end of the day, we have to be able to meet them where they are,” Walker said.

The event took place at Jerk48, a Caribbean food restaurant in Chicago. The restaurant hosts a job-training program for those interested in pursuing work in the culinary industry.

Among the participants was 19-year-old Devante White, Jerk 48’s newest employee. The young adult admitted to committing past crimes, including carjacking and participating in a teen takeover earlier this summer.

“A lot of it was from boredom,” he said. “Something to do.”

White adds that the temptation came from following his friends and not being true to who he wants to be. 

“There are a lot of things I regret in my past, like a lot of decisions I made,” White said. “But now that I have a different opportunity to work and have my parents something to smile about. It’s good now.”

For parents like Mahogany Townsend, having business leaders stepping up helps. 

“How hard is it to be a mom in 2023? It’s so hard. You’re fighting against social media all the time,” Townsend said.

Multiple teen takeovers have occurred across Chicago during the summer months including one at a gas station in Bronzeville and another along the streets of Lakeview.

“We have to teach them. We have to be able to be patient,” Walker said. “This room proves that if we come together in this community, we can solve these problems.”